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Creating an Ombuds Office

I am pleased to announce our plans to create a professional ombuds office at Northwestern to serve students, faculty and staff. The ombuds office will help individuals navigate the landscape of resources and offices at Northwestern. The office also will assist in clarifying the appropriate avenues for resolution of various issues, and it will provide trained experts in conflict management and mediation.

The plan for the ombuds office was developed by an Ombuds Program Taskforce, which has been studying the issue for the past year. The Taskforce sought extensive stakeholder input and undertook a review of successful ombuds offices at other universities.

My thanks to the Northwestern University Faculty Senate and all the other members of the Northwestern community who provided their input and examined the potential for this campus resource: the Provost’s Advisory Council for Women Faculty, leaders of the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, the Associated Student Government, and the Graduate Leadership and Advisory Council.

I also would like to thank the members of the taskforce for their diligent work in producing this proposal, and for their care in representing the needs of the full campus community throughout their endeavors.

The taskforce members included:

  • Heather Colburn, professor of instruction, Spanish & Portuguese, WCAS and former co-chair, Organization for Women Faculty
  • Sumit Dhar, chair and professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, SoC
  • Edward Gibson, associate dean for faculty affairs and professor, Political Science, WCAS
  • Kirabo Jackson, professor, SESP
  • Priya Harjani, deputy general counsel
  • Lesley Lundeen, work/life manager, Human Resources
  • Laurence Marks, professor, Materials Science and Engineering, McCormick
  • Karen Springen, lecturer and director of the Journalism Residency Program, Medill and chair of the Student Affairs Committee, Faculty Senate
  • Kate Veraldi, senior director, Student Services, TGS
  • Gayle Woloschak, associate dean for graduate student and postdoctoral affairs, TGS; professor, Radiation Oncology, FSM
  • Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, vice provost for academics, taskforce sponsor
  • Celina Flowers, assistant provost for faculty, taskforce chair 

We will recruit and hire a professionally trained ombudsperson to lead this office beginning in the 2020-21 academic year. Through the remainder of the current academic year, my office will work to develop the position description and undertake the search process. This will entail further outreach to the campus community and the opportunity to provide input into the parameters of the position. This work will be led by Kathleen Hagerty, associate provost for faculty, and Celina Flowers, assistant provost for faculty.

I believe that this initiative will support all members of the Northwestern community and will provide better access to our many resources and offices. I would once again like to thank all who have helped make the ombuds office a priority, and I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts and input as we make this new office a reality.